Apprentice contestant Kimberly Davis: "Has The Apprentice jumped the shark?"

After watching the women's team suck on whole sausages in the first week and the men shop for bathing suits with tassels in the second, I have to ask: has The Apprentice finally 'jumped the shark'?

There once was a time when Apprentice candidates were labelled 'Britain's best' business minds. Over the years we've watched some fantastic talent come from the show (Tim Campbell, Ruth Bager and Claire Young immediately come to mind). But as each year progresses, it seems that this title becomes diluted, and the prestige of The Apprentice tarnished by characters with no real business acumen.

So where is it all going wrong?

2010 certainly brings some significant changes to The Apprentice brand. Margaret Mountford has left and been replaced with the very capable Karren Brady. However, I think a lot of people can't help but miss those raised eyebrows, tell-tale looks and witty remarks.  She was my favourite part of the show, and though I like Karren very much, it's just not the same without Margaret.

But perhaps the biggest alteration is in the candidates themselves.

Week one introduced us to Dictator Dan who shouted, bullied, and ordered his way to the firing line, but not before Spikey Stuart displayed some of the most unacceptable, condescending and disrespectful behaviour I've ever seen on the show.

To make matters worse, week two brought complete humiliation to professional women all around Britain as we watched team Apollo reinforce female stereotypes we've all been trying to dispel for years. Their catty, petty, and overly-emotional behaviour was despicable.

But perhaps there is still hope…

This week's challenge was to design a new beach accessory and sell it to a major retailer.

Determined not to lose again, the boys' team were wise to stop fighting and start listening. They created the Cuuli, a beach towel with a pillow that doubles as a cooling storage unit.  (It might be worth noting that in the US, Cuuli is another word for your bum!)

Though not groundbreaking, the Cuuli managed to sell 100 units and bring the team to victory.

Team leader Stella gained respect and solidified her place as a leading contender after being praised by Nick for balancing the numbers and for turning a team of boys into a unified and supportive team of men during this difficult task.

Jamie is also one to watch. In week one he found a very diplomatic yet firm way of reining in Stuart's aggressive behaviour. This week, he really shone by coming up with the winning idea and letting his genuine passion for the product infect the rest of the team.

This said, the girls' team could not be more contrasting. After struggling to get an idea on the table, Team Leader, Laura, settled on Book-eeze, a eight-piece pocket holder for your book in case you are too lazy to hold it in your hands. Probably one of the worst ideas ever, which was clearly bulldozed through by an unruly Joanna.

After failing to accept exclusivity from a major retail chain, the girls lost their task with a record zero sales. As they returned back to the boardroom, chaos broke out and they started fighting in front of Lord Sugar like a bunch of cawing crows. It wasn't until Karren interrupted and gave an applaud-worthy lecture on how disgusting their behaviour was that they finally simmered down.

But through all the chaos, I noted that there was just one girl who, very wisely, did not open her mouth…

Liz Locke, who has been strong and assertive, has kept her hands clean of what has clearly turned into a dirty fight. Also praised by Nick in week one, she seems to have a good head on her shoulders and I look forward to seeing where she goes.

Back to the boardroom, where Laura, Joanna, and Joy faced the final cut. In the end, Lord Sugar chose Joy, for not contributing enough.

For me, the real failure of this task came down to the wrong choice of leader. Joy and Paloma are both marketing experts. Why didn't they put themselves forward for team leader or contribute any significant ideas?

I couldn't help but feel sorry for Laura.  Working with that group seemed near impossible for anyone. But it's no excuse to walk out and cry. And there is definitely no justification for zero sales.

But then there was Joanna's unacceptable behaviour. She did not work within the team, failed to listen to others, and was aggressive without cause. Even her compliments come out with venom.  I believe this sort of behaviour prevents the rest of the team from being productive.

My personal opinion is with Laura: the whole team should be fired. But if forced to choose, I believe Joanna should have gone. Lord Sugar needs to make an example of people who demonstrate poor behaviour, and show it will not be tolerated or rewarded in any way.

It makes the credible candidates from past and present look bad, it makes the producers look bad, but most of all it makes Lord Sugar, Nick Hewer, and Karren Brady look bad. If this behaviour continues, The Apprentice will well and truly 'jump the shark' and lose any last bit of credibility it may still have.


On a personal note, I'd like to send  Raleigh Addington and his family all my best wishes. You can contribute to his charity, Tickets For Troops.

Kimberly now runs Sarsaparilla Marketing, a marketing consulting and training agency. Follow her on Twitter @ApprenticeKim



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